Charles Henry Parkhurst.

Roosevelt--Hughes and Americanism: online

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Online LibraryCharles Henry ParkhurstRoosevelt--Hughes and Americanism: → online text (page 1 of 1)
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tl £nter into his gates with thanksgiving y and into

his courts with praise ; l<f thankful unto him and bless
his name. "

Psalm c : iv.



In the governmental appointment of a clay to
be religiously observed there is something exceed-
ingly gratifying to a man who, while not believing
in a State religion, believes in a religious state.
Religion has from the first been the clandestine
foundation of our Republic, and the most reticent
symptoms of that fact are always grateful to the
hearts of such as feel that it is upon the religious
sanctions that we have to ground the hopes of our
national-weal and perpetuity.

The evidences that we are nationally religious
do not require to be specially conspicuous. It is
not necessary that the foundation of a building of
marble or stone should be placed above the
ground and crowded obtrusively into view, but
you must have noticed that the more massive a
structure is, the greater the pains taken to have
the lower courses of the superficial masonry so
architectured, so broadened toward the base, as to
be suggestive of the massiveness and solidity of
the substructural undergirding.

And so, as said, we find great comfort in the
symptomatic designation by governmental author-

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ity of a day that is appointed to express our
dependence, individual, social and civic, upon the
God of the American people. It amounts to a
form of national confession of faith in Jehovah.

And it follows along naturally enough there to
say that, profoundly possessed of that sentiment,
as doubtless the majority of the American People
are possessed of it, we feel to resent any move-
ment, in whatsoever quarter made, that even looks
in the direction of repealing any of those evidences
that are suggestive to us of the divine foundation
upon which as a people we rest. That it might
not be wise to inaugurate any new intimation of
our " trust in God " may well be. But it is an-
other thing to efface such suggestions as are
already in force. Done in the way in which it has
just been done it is the arbitrary obliteration by
one individual, — for he is only one in spite of the
fact that he is the chief executive, — it is the arbi-
trary obliteration by an individual of a tradition
in regard to which eighty million people may be
supposed to have some very decided views, and
views that are liable, quite liable, to be as valuable
as those of the chief executive: — a point that is
made all the more pointed by the fact that the
motto which now stands upon our coin is there by
legislative action.

And farthermore if the author of this action
had studied into the science of numismatics as pro-
foundly as he lets us suppose he has studied into
the science of natural history, he would have dis-
covered that when in 1861 Hon. Salmon P. Chase,
Secretary of the Treasury, wrote, — " No nation
can be strong except in the strength of God, or

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safe except in his defence; the trust of our people
in God should be declared on our national coins,"
— I say if he had studied into the science of numis-
matics he would have discovered that Secretary
Chase in so writing was simply thinking in line
with the ancient thought of classic Greece and
Rome, with whom religion and monej were bound
into the bundle of a single individual conception,
and their coinage stamped with the images and
superscriptions of gods and goddesses.

In a recent Episcopal convention when this
matter was discussed and a resolution adopted
disapproving- the act of the- Executive, one mem-
ber objected on the ground that such resolution
was a criticism upon the government. Very truly;
but it must be remembered that we are not living
in St. Petersburg, nor in Constantinople, nor even
in Berlin. We are citizens of a republic, where it
is one of the perquisites of citizenship to express,
— in a careful and considerate way, of course, —
opinions upon all questions of public interest, and
if that perquisite were more freely, — and perhaps
sometimes more considerately, — availed of, it
would doubtless be to the advantage both of the
people and of the government. One thing against
which, as citizens of a free and generous republic we
must carefully guard is, the assuming of any attitude
which shall even seem to accord to an)- individual
a monopoly either of wisdom or of power. I speak
that simply out of impassioned devotion to the
genius of a republican form of government.

Another matter, in some respects similar, that
I feel moved to give a moment to in this connec-
tion, is this. Last February, — as has, at this late

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date, become publicly known, — action was taken
by the Board of Education of this city, aiming to
exercise restraint in the matter of Christmas exer-
cises in our public schools. Without wishing to
antagonize any foreign nationality represented in
our own citizenship, especially a nationality that I
took such pleasure in warmly eulogizing from my
pulpit two weeks ago, there are still certain features
of the existing situation that demand passing
attention.

Warmly welcomed and hospitably entertained
as has been the imported element of our American
citizenship, we should suppose that such adventi-
tious citizens would experience a degree of delicacy
in crowding their imported notions, social, moral
and religious, upon thoroughbred natives. That
is not spoken out of disrespect for people foreign
born or born of foreign parents, but only at the
impulse of this rather natural feeling that there are
certain prior rights pertaining to original tenants
that do not seem so immediately to belong to
those who were admitted into the house after the
furniture had been moved in and the housekeeping
operations had commenced.

The institutions of this country had taken
rather definite shape before our friends from con-
tinental Europe had begun to congregate in great
numbers on this side of the water. Matters of
social custom, of Sabbath observance, and of re-
ligious faith, had already assumed forms quite well
defined, forms however against which continental
peoples have thrust themselves with an insistance
unrelieved by any symptoms of modesty or com-
punction.

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Having Forgotten seemingly that they were
admitted into the American family only on suffer-
ance, they have in many instances officiously let
about to reorganize the housekeeping and in some
cases even gone so far as to pitch the original
householders out of the back door, as in the
present instance where the protest made by parents
of foreign extraction is that our schools should be

regulated to meet the wants of 20 per cent, of the
school children. It is not a question of animosity
on our part, hut of simple every da)' fairness. If
you take a stranger into your home you will tender

to him the hospitality of a room that he can con-
sider his, and if he has an)- little eccentricities o\
habit you will let him feel free to go off into his
room and exploit them, but you will not propose
to have those eccentricities interfere with the es-
tablished regulations of your household, and if he
is a gentleman he will not want them to interfere.
And the feeling of respect that I have for the
Hebrew people in our midst is such that I do not
believe that it is more than a small minority of
them that are responsible for the present disturbed
situation.

The City Superintendent is reported as saying
that there is no occasion for what he politely styles
the present "rumpus." I would only say in reply
to that that it looks exceedingly much as though
it were the present "rumpus" that has thus far
prevented his communicating to the teachers of
the public schools the contents of the resolution
adopted by the Hoard of Education last February;
and it is not too much to expect perhaps that the
influence of that same "rumpus" will operate to

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hold him to the same Fabian policy of delay till
after the 25th of December.*

Only a single word more relative to this general
matter. It is faith in God, and faith in God as
revealed to us by Jesus Christ, that lies at the basis
of our national history and of our national pros-
perity ; so that any man or men who has come to
us from abroad with a desire to better his condi-
tion, but who seeks to blacken the face of God or
to obliterate the name of Christ, to that extent
seeks to destroy the very influence that has pro-
duced the prosperity that he has come across the
Atlantic to have a share in.

Now, — to dismiss all that matter, — I have been
far longer time than I intended in reaching my
main purpose of specifying two or three occasions,
general occasions, of devout gratitude.

And I mention first our chief federal executive,
the President of the United States. Leaving out
of view all those points of temperament and of
policy that some of us, perhaps all of us, would be
disposed to criticize, there remains the fact of Mr.
Roosevelt's unquestioned, and I should say, un-
questionable, integrity. A man of that character
standing as the representative head of a great
nation is an enginery of personal uplift beyond the
power of language to express or even of thought
to compute. Nobility of character when raised
upon a pedestal of such commanding position tells
tremendously for national dignity, social better-
ment and individual ennoblement. Virtue, even

* The foregoing was written two days ago. The action taken by the Board of
Education yesterday, as reported in the papers this morning, shows that I was correct in
my prognostication. From the amiable breadth of sentiment evinced by the Board at its
yesterday's session one might infer that the poor little innocents in our schools are to be
free to worship God according to either the Christian, Jewish, Mohammedan or Confucian
ritual. There is great virtue in agitation.

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inconspicuous virtue, is always elevating, but it is
virtue, purity of purpose, become evident and
working along lines oi large procedure that 1
arrests the attention, commands the respect, and
lifts the tone of the common life.

Queen Victoria was not probably the mere
figure-head that she was at one time supposed to
be, but was a very considerable factor in British
and also in international politics. It w.is, howe
the exalted and queenly character of the- woman,
quite as much as her statesmanship, that has
stamped her impress upon British and Continental
life. And so of Mr. Roosevelt. As the German
poet has said: "It is personality that prevails." It
was the irresistible sovereignty of personality that
enabled him to achieve what will probably prove
to be the crowning act of his theatrical life, the
mediation that brought to a conclusion the Russo-
Japanese War.

And I doubt if there is any young man in this
country, especially if unincumbered by political
and partisan prejudices, to whom manhood does
not count for more because of what Theodore
Roosevelt has been and is, simply as a man, vigor-
ous, generous and pure. And it is tremendously
to our credit, the tense bonds of warm attachment
which bind us to him. Men are to be measured
by the quality of the things that they admire and
and love, and by that token the common devotion
of the American heart to "Teddy" discloses the
fine, sweet quality of the American heart.

As the second ground of devout gratitude I
would mention the Chief Executive of our own
State, Gov. Hughes. The instances have been

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exceedingly rare in our political history where a
man untrained in political experience has forged
to the front with the expedition of Mr. Hughes,
and as quickly as he won for himself so large a
place in local regard and even in national thought.
We all remember the tender solicitude expressed
in certain quarters lest his political immaturity
might prove a fatal handicap when he should
come to the practical discharge of gubernatorial
obligations. The idea has probably occurred to a
good many of us since that time that the greener
a man may be as a politician the riper it may be
possible for him to become as a statesman ; that
practical politics has nothing in common with
statesmanship, and that large effectiveness in pub-
lic life is liable to be precluded by a preliminary
training- in its small subtleties. Better be almost
anything than an expert.

Although we are a republic and the people,
therefore, supposed to be the determining factor,
the interesting feature of his election was that the
greatest obstacle lying between him and the gov-
ernorship was the fact that nobody but the people
cared for him. The experts, — the men without
visible means of support, and with whom politics
is a business, — had taken the accurate measure of
the man, and were averted from him by the large-
ness of his proportions, the distinctness of his per-
ceptions and the cleanliness of his impulses. It
was, therefore, left to the people to nominate him,
left to the people to elect him, left to the people
to stand by him, — a loyalty which the Governor
has magnificently reciprocated. And while there
is not that passionate affection for Mr. Hughes

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that sometimes subsists between a people and its
rulers, there is that intense confidence felt in the
man, not simply in his integrity, which is as per-
l. ( t, probably, as in the instance of Mr. Roosevelt,
— but iu those supplementary qualities needed to
accompany integrity in order that its possessor
may be qualified to fill positions of large and deli-
cate public tru >t.

There is, for instance, in our Governor's method
of approaching difficult questions and meeting em-
barrassing situations, a quiet poise of mind which,
while yielding results less dramatically entertain-
ing, and less volcanic either in the amount of
blinding illumination thrown into the air or
scorching ruination furrowing the ground, accom-
plishes the ends had in view, in a manner both
effective and sanitary. 1 le would not be a man to
mend a delicate Swiss watch in the use of a sledge-
hammer. His method of operation might require
more time than would be expended by a black-
smith, but when he got through mending there
would be some of the watch left.

So far as I know we have never had an official
who more perfectly accommodated himself to the
genius of American institutions, who filled more
completely and devotedly just the position consti-
tutionally created for the executive to fill, without
symptoms of any nervous and impetuous ambition
to enlarge that position to a wider area.

He has, therefore, for a year been settled down
to the arduous but straightforward business of
caring for the interests of the State* of New York
in its entirety and in its individual citizenship.
He made it clear, in an address recently delivered

i i



here, that he considers a public official to be not a
ruler of the people but a servant of the people,
and, therefore, — to use his own words, — "strictly
accountable to the people for every departure
from the democratic ideal of office." Which is
substantially the same thing as saying to the State
at large and to each individual member of the
State, " If in your judgment I have erred in my
discharge of the duties which you have imposed
upon me, be entirely frank to tell me so."

Now the existence of that sort of spirit is what
is going to save us from drifting in the direction
of government monarchically administered, a tend-
ency that is always so quick to assert itself in any
republic, and a tendency, too, that even at present
is exciting among us an amount of silent misgiving.
There is nothing, then, in the administration of
such a man as our Governor as would even suggest
a comparison between him and Czar Nicholas, or
even between him and Emperor William. So that,
if we were any of us to take sharp exception to
some executive act of his, we should never be trem-
blingly solicitous lest he or any of his friends
should lodge against us a charge of "conspiracy."

In all these references I only want that we
should gratefully realize the distinguished privilege
and advantage that this State enjoys in having as
its chief executive a man who by his word expresses,
and in his administration embodies, the American
idea of "government 0/the people, by the people
andyW the people."

Mr. Hughes' disposition to accommodate him-
self to the position constitutionally created for
the executive is farthermore evinced and, in

12



view of the circumstances <>f the times, strikingly

evinced, by the scrupulous way in which he holds

himself inside that one particular department of
government which he was chosen to fill. What I
mean is that he does not tryto be the whole thing.

Not onl\ does h«- not impair the dignity of his

high office by mixing indiscriminately in questions
that lie quite outside the domain <»l government,
and questions touching which his opinion would
have no more intrinsic value than would that of a
thousand or ten thousand other men from among

his constituents, hut even inside the governmental
domain he neither trespassed upon the functions
of legislation by usurping legislative prerogative
nor upon the functions of the judiciary by putting
upon statutes or upon the State constitution an
interpretation in pursuance of his own aims and
ends. All I mean is that he understands that he
was elected to a specially designated service, and
the whole energy of the man is devoted to ren-
dering that specially designated service, without
bordering his proper function by a miscellaneous
fringe of activity constitutionally relegated to
spheres of official responsibility for which he is
himself in no manner accountable.

It lies quite in line with that to observe for an
instant the attitude of serenity and of undistracted
devotion to official duty which the Governor is
maintaining in just these days when so much is
being said and so much more is bein<»- thought
that bears so directly upon him personally and
upon his future. It is the limit, if I may so say,
it is the very acme of Spartan self-mastery for a
Governor of the State of New York to do nothing

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013 981 064 8

but mind his own business with unabated and un-
flustered industry at a time when millions of Am-
erican voters are earnestly and enthusiastically
considering him as a presidential possibility. In
the moral sense of the word, it is simply colossal.
There is nothing in his case, — is there? — to remind
us of that chronic candidate who now, for nearly
a decade, has kept himself ostentatiously dangling
before an indeterminate public. There is nothing
in his case either that would warrant even a Jus-
tice of the Supreme Court in charging him with
"playing hide and seek." "Hide," yes; but not
"seek." The attitude of Mr. Hughes at the pres-
ent time is to me most impressive. There is in
his attitude an irresistible dignity, an unimpeachable
self-mastery, a gigantic aversion to the idea of
making personal capital out of responsible oppor-
tunity, that more than any other one quality of
the man challenges my inexpressible respect and
confidence, and makes me long and pray that the
time may come when we may be even more
thankful than we are to-day, and when Divine
Providence, speaking through the suffrages of the
people, shall say to him : " Thou hast been faithful
over a few things, I will make thee ruler over
many things."

And yet, dear friends, these are not the things
we think of most when in the stillness and privacy
of our own hearts we offer sacrifice of thanks-
giving upon the altar of our devotion. It is then
that the large matters of the outer world recede
from view and that our loves rest caressingly upon
the quieter and closer mercies that make living to

14




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be sweet and beautiful, whether upon o/ir ace
tomeil blessings that are so numerous ai*l sorm



them so precious, or upon some newly arrived
luxury of experience thai adds yet .mother touch

of fineness to our life ami yet another ray of

brightness to our hope.

For all these things, small and great, old and

mw, manifest or hidden, we render Thee thanks,
Good Father, who art ever mindful of Tin children

and whose thoughts toward us are always thoughts
of lovingkindness and tender mercy.



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Online LibraryCharles Henry ParkhurstRoosevelt--Hughes and Americanism: → online text (page 1 of 1)